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J Struct Biol. 1991 Aug;107(1):76-85.

The three-dimensional organization of smooth endoplasmic reticulum in capillary endothelia: its possible role in regulation of free cytosolic calcium.

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Department of General Physiology and Biophysics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


A rise in cytosolic free Ca in capillary endothelia leads to increased permeability. It has been proposed that this Ca(2+)-regulated modulation of junctional permeability of vascular endothelia involves structural elements comparable to those involved in stimulus-contraction coupling in smooth muscle. To explore this analogy the three-dimensional organization of smooth-surfaced cisternae, vesicular membrane profiles, and tight junctions was examined in endothelia of diaphragm and heart capillaries of the rat. Three-dimensional reconstructions, based on consecutive sections of the capillaries, have demonstrated a population of small, irregular membrane profiles, occurring in individual thin sections of the endothelial cytoplasm. These profiles represent an elaborate system of smooth-surfaced cisternae, structurally similar to the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) of smooth muscle cells. Slender processes from the cisternae are often situated in parallel to the tight junctions at a distance of about 100 nm. The great majority of the characteristic circular membrane profiles represents caveolae and racemose invaginations of the endothelial plasma membrane, often in close relation to the cisternae. It is hypothesized that the endothelial cisternae and invaginations of the cell membrane are involved in regulation of free cytosolic calcium in the same way as the SR and caveolae in smooth muscle cells. The junction-related cisternal processes may play a role in the Ca(2+)-regulated modulation of junctional permeability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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